White Supremacist Group Member Convicted of Federal Hate Crime for Defacing Michigan Synagogue with Neo-Nazi Symbols

Jan 25, 2024 | Read Now, Voices

A federal jury today convicted a Michigan man for conspiring with others and defacing Temple Jacob, a Jewish synagogue in Hancock with swastikas and symbols associated with The Base, a multi-state, white supremacist group.

Nathan Weeden, 23, of Houghton, was convicted of one count of conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any person in the exercise of their rights and one count of intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property because of the race or ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with that property. Weeden’s co-conspirators, Richard Tobin, of New Jersey, and Yousef Barasneh, of Wisconsin, both previously pleaded guilty to federal crimes related to the incident. Barasneh testified in the trial against Weeden.

“This defendant shamelessly desecrated Temple Jacob when he emblazoned swastikas — a symbol of extermination — on their Temple walls,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Such conduct is unacceptable and criminal under any circumstances but doing so in furtherance of a self-described ‘Operation Kristallnacht’ conspiracy is beyond disgraceful. Antisemitism has no place in our society, and the Justice Department will aggressively prosecute white supremacists who seek to threaten and intimidate others from exercising their federally and constitutionally protected rights.”

“Today’s swift conviction sends a strong message that hate will not be tolerated in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten for the Western District of Michigan. “No one should be the target of hate because of their race, ethnicity, religion or any other status. When hateful words become hateful acts, my office will use every tool we have to protect the public and secure justice.”

“People of all faiths deserve to feel safe in their communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Cheyvoryea Gibson of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold those accountable whose hate-filled aggression violates the civil rights of others. For law enforcement to safeguard against hate and violence, we request the public’s assistance in reporting suspicious or threatening behavior by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or submitting a tip online at tips.fbi.gov/home.”

[The Press Release from the Department of Justice continues]

In September 2019, Weeden, Tobin and Barasneh, all members of The Base, used an encrypted messaging platform to discuss vandalizing property associated with African Americans and Jewish Americans. Weeden and his co-conspirators dubbed their plan, “Operation Kristallnacht,” which in German means “Night of Broken Glass.” This term referenced events that took place on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, in which Nazis murdered Jews and burned and destroyed their homes, synagogues, schools and places of business. Weeden carried out this plan on Sept. 21, 2019, when he spray-painted swastikas and symbols associated with The Base on the outside walls of Temple Jacob.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentencing after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI investigated the case with assistance from ATF and the Hancock Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler for the Western District of Michigan and Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.

View this Justice Department Press Release from January 25th